Category Archives: Best Photos of the Year

The Votes are In! Your picks for my top dozen shots of 2017

Hi all,

I was flattered by the number of you that took the time to vote for your choice of my top shots of 2017.  It was the first time I had done a ‘reader’s poll’ and I wasn’t sure about how many folks would respond…guess I shouldn’t have worried!

So, how about the results?! 

#1  The vote for the top shot wasn’t even close, nearly half of my readers selected “Heavenly Hanalei” as my best image of 2017:

Milky Way over Hanalai Bay, Kauai

Perhaps no surprise, this was also my best selling print of 2017

#2  The voting for the next couple spots was much tighter, but “Frustration’s Child” took the second spot:

Mount Shuskan

It’s funny to me now but improvising when I took this shot resulted in a far better image than I would have captured if I had shot from the location I had originally planned to.

#3  This night image of a full moon shining on the caldera of the Kīlauea Volcano was also one of my personal favorites:

“Lunar Limelight” I have a copy of this one hanging by my desk at home.

#4  Hawaii’s beauty was popular with my readers:  this image Kauai’s Queens Bath ranked fourth:

Queen's Bath Kauai sunrise

“Fit for a Queen”


#5  was this colorful sunrise of Washington state’s Mt. Baker taken from Artist’s Ridge:

“Here comes the Sun”

#6 was an image from Rodeo Beach near San Francisco.  This spot had been on my ‘bucket list’ for years and I was blessed to be there on day with a killer sunset:

I always thought this looked like a shark rising vertically out of the ocean…can you see it?

#7 This adorable Alaskan sea Otter was my highest ranking wildlife shot of the year:

“Morning Prayer”

#8 Back to Hawaii for this dramatic view of lava, ocean and steam:

Lava flowing into the ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii

“Vulcan’s Cauldron”

#9 was this peaceful shot of a humpback taking a deep dive in Alaska’s Inner Passage:

“Dive, Dive, Dive!”

#10  I would have ranked this image higher since it really ‘speaks’ to me.  Funny how different photos impress folks differently!


#11  This Bald Eagle grazing the surface of an Alaskan stream took the next to last spot in our countdown:

“Strafing Run”

#12  Rounding out my top dozen from last year was this view from Yosemite:

“Artist’s Point”

So, there you have the best I could do last year.  Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and vote, I truly appreciate it!

2017 was great but 2018 has incredible potential.  I’ve got a trip to Patagonia planned in April that could be epic (at least it is in my dreams)…we’ll see.

Take care and remember, photography is about a lot more than pretty pictures!

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My Top 12 from 2017

The annual blog recapping my Top 12 Shots is one of the most popular of the year.  It is certainly one of the most difficult to write.  Looking at your own work objectively without being influenced by the emotions and memories you have of the moment you took the shot …well, it is darn near impossible.  On the other hand, it IS fun to reminisce about the past year and appreciate how blessed I was to have enjoyed some truly amazing vistas.

So I’ve finally winnowed down the year’s 100,000 photos to a final 12. These shots aren’t ranked yet (but YOU will have a chance to pick the winner…see details at the end of the blog)!  For now I’ve simply listed them in chronological order:

  1. Shark’s Eye

Rodeo Beach Sunset

I’ve admired shots of Rodeo Beach for years and finally got a chance to photograph there during a road trip with my son Ryan.  When we arrived, an Aperture Academy workshop was already set up with a couple dozen students filling the tight area behind the sea stacks.  It was crowded, but I did my best contortionist’s imitation and managed to squeeze off some decent shots thru the forest of tripod legs.

So, what’s up with the name of the shot?  I think that center sea stack looks like the head of a shark rising straight out of the ocean with the sun glinting off of its eye.  Can you see it?

2) Artist’s Point

Yosemite Artist's Point

This view should be familiar…the vista of  Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View is iconic…possibly the best known and most photographed icon of the American west.
But this image wasn’t taken from Tunnel View.  This is an obscure location known as Artist’s Point.  It’s on the edge of a cliff on an old stagecoach road which was the premier location to see the valley before 1933 (when the tunnel that gives Tunnel View was completed).

I can’t honestly say that the view is dramatically different.  But it is isolated, quiet and peaceful…not the three-ring circus that Tunnel View can be.  Check out my blog article for more history, photos and details about Artist’s Point as well as a dramatic time-lapse.

3) “Heavenly Hanalei”

Milky Way over Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Hanalei Bay is one of the most beautiful spots on Kauai…which is truly saying a lot since I think Kauai may be the most photogenic place on earth.  My last trip there coincided with a new moon and I took advantage of the dark skies to capture the iconic Hanalei Pier stretched out under the Milky Way.

4) “Fit for a Queen”

Queen's Bath sunrise Kauai

Queen’s Bath is a well-known location on the north shore of Kauai near Princeville.  Legend would have it that Hawaiian royalty used it as, get ready for it…a bath.
The spot is a bit notorious because of the multiple drownings that have taken place there but it is certainly a delight for photographers.
This dawn image was taken a few hundred yards east of the bath where a small double waterfall drops into the Pacific. Quite the magical spot.

5)  “Vulcan’s Cauldron”

Lava flowing into the ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii

Witnessing the birth of new land as lava pours into the ocean is dramatic, unforgettable and profoundly moving.  This pre-dawn shot was taken from a rocking boat so close to the lava that my face tingled from the heat and my ears rang from the sound of the molten rock exploding as it poured into the chilly Pacific.  Read more about this experience on this blog.

6)  “Midwife”

Lava Ocean Entry on the Big Island of Hawaii

My son and I went back to see the lava again a couple of days later at sunset.  This time we rented bikes and peddled out to an observation area the National Park Service had set up.  A group of 50 or so of us silently stood and watched with what can only be described as a sense of reverence.  As I was taking some shots I spotted a hiker that had snuck under the barrier and climbed up to a ridgeline between us and the lava.  His (her?) silhouette made for a dramatic image.

7) “Lunar Limelight”

Kīlauea Caldera CraterTaking this image of the Kilauea Caldera at night was the highlight of my Hawaiian tour.  I spent 3 evenings doing my best to capture its magic under a full moon.  Of the thousands of images I took, this is the only one with the wild purple lens flare that seemed to spotlight the lava.  Don’t really understand how it happened, but I enjoy the result all the same.

8)  “Dive! Dive! Dive!”I couldn’t tell you how many whale tours I’ve been on over the years and I’d thought I’d pretty much seen it all.  But last fall my wife Anita and I were on boat out of Sitka Alaska and I learned how wrong I was!  We spotted this Humpback who was slamming its tail onto the surface of the water.  Now we’d seen this before, but usually it doesn’t last long and I’m lucky just to get off a handful of shots before the whale dives deep and disappears.  But This humpback kept it up for over ten minutes.  The captain said he hadn’t seen anything like it in the dozen years he had been conducting tours.  I got literally thousands of shots: this one is one of my favorites from that memorable day.

9) “Morning Prayer”

I don’t know if this is truly a great shot from a purely technical perspective, but my family adored it, so here it is.  This otter was riding the gentle swells in a kelp field in Alaska’s Inner Passage seemingly without a care in the world.  Gotta love that fuzzy face.

10) “Strafing Run!”

I  had watched this eagle for fifteen minutes or so before he finally left his perch and skimmed over a little stream near Ketchikan Alaska.  I ripped off a series of shots and this one caught the moment when one of his wing feathers glanced the water.

11) “Frustration’s Child”

 This image invokes a sense of tranquility and calm when I look at it now.  That’s kind of funny, because the overpowering emotion that I had when I took the shot was pure frustration.
I had spent a good part of a day scouting for locations near Mt. Shuksan in Washington state’s Cascade Range.  Wildflowers were few and far between but I found a handful by this small lake.   You could only see Shuksan’s reflection from a tiny part of the lakeside, but it was perfect. I marked the spot on my GPS and decided to return for sunset.
Unfortunately, when I rolled up a few hours late another photographer and a group of her friends were already set up in ‘my’ spot. With the light fading, I shuffled back and forth along the bank taking photos from their left and right with a growing sense of frustration. I was ticked off at myself for not getting their earlier and prayed that they would move….but they stayed firmly rooted until the last of the sun’s red glow faded from the snow atop Shuksan.

In retrospect, being forced to shoot from a non-ideal location may have actually been a good thing.  It forced me to concentrate and really think about my framing, focus and composition…but I sure didn’t feel that way then!

12) “Here Comes the Sun!”

I was lucky to find a batch of these vibrant red berries on a Mountain Ash tree while scouting on the Artist’s Point Trail near Mt Baker. The next morning I was set up and was well rewarded when the sunrise hit Baker’s summit and illuminated the low-lying clouds

So twelve shots…call it an average of one a month, but which is the best?  That’s where I need your help.  For the first time, I’m going to let my readers rank the shots.  Just pop me an email at and list the shots from best to worst.  I’ll compile the results and publish the final results next month.

Have fun!


PS:   I’d like to thank my family for helping me review my library from 2017 and narrow it down to the 12 shots in this blog.   Without their help it would have taken me until 2019 to write this blog.

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My 12 Best of 2016

From Canada to the Carribean to Kenya, I was blessed with the chance to explore a variety of landscapes and exotic wildlife in 2016.  The only downside to this kind of  bounty is that it creates a challenge when trying to pick my favorite dozen shots from the year!

Its a great problem to have and below is my best effort to recap an incredible year.  I’ve included some of my best selling images as well as others that I personally love even if they haven’t sold a single print.  So, ready or not…here we go…

My 12 Best of 2016

# 1 “Midnight Run”

Racetrack Playa has long been on my bucket list and I finally got a chance to explore it last year.  Unlike some other icons that don’t quite live up to the hype when you finally get to visit, Racetrack was all I hoped it would be and more (although I could have done without the sandstorm)!  Check out this blog if you would like to read more and see photos from that trip.

Fire Wave at Valley of Fire State Park Nevada

#2 “Sun Worshiper”

This is one of those shots that I wouldn’t have gotten if I wasn’t so persistant (or ‘pig-headed’ as my wife might say).  My son and I had a few hours to explore Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park on our way to Zion and we hiked out to the ‘Fire Wave’ even though it was ugly and raining.  I had just dropped my backpack when the sun burst thru the clouds and bathed us in glorious light for brief minute or two.  Ryan ran up to the wave and I got my tripod set up in time to grab an image or two before the sun disappeared.

My 12 Best of 2016

#3   “New Dive Buddy”

My wife Anita and I were diving near Pompano Beach when this Green Sea Turtle decided to tag along with us for a while.  It was wonderful to spend a few moments with this graceful guy in such a tranquil setting.  Here’s a link to a full article about this experience.

#4 "Mora Morning"

#4 “Mora Morning”

My wife (whom I clearly do not deserve) bought me a photo tour to Kenya as my Christmas present last year (I think I bought her a sweater);   The trip was really all about wildlife, but deep down, I think I’m a landscape photographer at heart.  Maybe that’s why I never missed the chance to capture some of the more incredible vistas…even if there was a leopard in the tree 50 feet away!

#5 "The Joust"

#5 “The Joust”

Yeah, I might love landscapes, but when your Land Rover turns the corner and two muscular Orix are scrapping for the rights to a harem of females, I had my camera up and ripping off shots with the rest of them.  These two guys were cracking their spike-like horns together, grunting and wheezing with excitement…maybe I should have shot a video instead!

#6 "Nothing Ventured"

#6 “Nothing Ventured”

One challenge for any photographer is to capture something new and unique in their shots.  This is nearly impossible when shooting iconic locations that have been photographed thousands of times before.   Mt. Rundle, as seen from Two Jack Lake in Canada’s Baniff National park is one of those places.   My son and I had spent two weeks getting systematically rained out of every single sunrise and sunset when the gods finally smiled and this scene appeared thru a breaking morning storm.  It was one of those moments when everything came together and allowed Ryan and I beat the odds and capture a truly magical moment.  I’m really proud of this image…it became my best selling print of 2016 and it is one of my all-time personal favorites.  See my full blog from last year about how it all came together.

Antelope Canyon

#7    “Sandstone Supernova”

I’ve photographed Arizona’s Antelope Canyon many times now but I’m still amazed every time I crawl down into that narrow crack in the red sandstone.  Technically, it is a difficult place to photograph but the resulting images can be amazing.  Everyone should experience this insane place at least once in their lives.

#8 "Birder's Delight"

#8 “Birder’s Delight”

2016 may be the year I finally came to understand ‘birders.’   To be honest, I’ve always looked at birders as nice but ‘unusual’ folks who delighted in talking thousands of photos of little grey and brown birds.  Well, my two weeks in Kenya introduced me to a world of colorful and exotic birds that anyone would be crazy NOT to pick up a camera and start snapping shots!  This shot of a Lilac Breasted Roller (I think) is possibly my all time best effort at capturing a bird in flight.

#9 xxxxx

#9    “Ringside Seat”

This is one of those photos that I would think is a photoshopped ‘creation’ unless I had been the one who actually taken the shot.  A killer rock perch above a dramatic waterfall with a perfect little island right behind it just looks too cool to be real…but it is!   Ryan and I arrived at Jasper’s Sunwapta Falls with an idealized idea of what we wanted to photograph but once we got there we just couldn’t find the right spot.  We searched for quite a while before Ryan found it.  This shot is the result of his persistance.

#10 “Here we come!”

This is probably the most popular shot I took in Kenya (which is saying quite a lot since I took over 35,000 photos)!  These four lion cubs were just walking right down the middle of a dirt road early one morning in Masai Mora National Park.  That one to the left looks like he was shouting out cadence..”Hup, one, two three four, Hup…hup!”  Actually, he was just yawning:)  Check out their dirty little feet… clearly they had been up early playing in the mud…just like youngsters!


#11    “Postcard Peaks”

I was so excited when I first got to Lake Moraine that I immediately headed right to the famous ‘rockpile’ where you get this elevated view of the ‘Ten Peaks’.  To get there, I left the trail and hopped across a series of slippery logs floating in the water next to the parking area then scrambled up a steep rocking incline to the top.  Here was a 55+ year old guy carrying thousands of dollars of photo gear in a heavy backpack and I remember wondering if this was really a good idea.  The funny thing was that when I got to the top, I saw that if I had stayed on the trail from the parking lot a bit longer I would have seen that there actually was a nice, paved walkway to the top that was being used every other tourist in Alberta….

#12 "Mirror, Mirror..."

#12 “Mirror, Mirror…”

I’ll finish with my favorite wildlife shot of 2016.  I was watching a group of cheetahs trek across a small stream when one stopped at low spot in the surrounding bedrock that held a small puddle of water.  I was shooting ten frames per second and luckily managed to capture this moment when the cheetah seemed to gaze at its’ own relection before lapping up an evening drink.  The reflection was just perfect and the way the cheetah looped its tail and arched her back was nearly poetic in its gracefullness.

There you have it…the best I could do in 2016.  Photography was good to me last year.  It challenged and motivated me to seek out and enjoy the beauty of our earth.  I hope you enjoyed my photos and perhaps they will inspire you to get out there and explore a bit as well!




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My Twelve Best of 2015

Writing my annual Top 12 blog is always interesting.  Yeah…interesting.  It’s a good word.  It covers everything from fun to frustrating…and that’s very appropriate.  Trying to filter 12,000 images down to 12 is a challenge.  Don’t get me wrong, it is fun to remember the trips I took to capture these shots…those are some wonderful memories.  But just 12 images…wow…it’s really frustrating trying to narrow it down that much.  On, the other hand, I guess it’s a good problem to have, it meant that 2015 resulted in a lot of work I was proud of.   Well anyway, you didn’t click on this blog to hear me ramble…you want to see photos, so here we go…my best work of the year 2015 (in no particular order):2015 Smokies_04_30_03285 3260 blendI know I said the photos aren’t ranked, but this might be my favorite shot of the year.  Heck, this might be my favorite shot ever.  I have huge metal print of this image hanging right over my desk and every time I see it, I seem to stop and drink it in for a moment or two.  Not only does it inspire me, but I always think of the improbable chain of events that resulted in me capturing this image.  It’s a shot that I shouldn’t have gotten, but I did…and I’m grateful.

2015 Smokies_04_30_02492 cropJust adorable.  I came upon this cub and his sister playing on the edge of a field in the Smokies and they couldn’t have been more cute if they had tried.  I spent a few hours  photographing them while hand-holding the ‘beast’ (my 200-400 lens…which weighs as much as the cub’s mom)…but it was worth every aspirin I had to swallow!

2015 Smokies_04_28_00219 blendGeorge Jetson was here!  Well, that’s the type of graffiti I was expecting to see on top of Clingman’s Dome when I was setting up this shot.  I love how the spiral observation tower mimics the grace of the Milky Way.


2015 Scuba 17 March 11879 crop2_1My wife and I were diving on a wreck in the Caribbean when this big kahuna joined us and made my day.  I’d never had much luck photographing sea turtles but that all changed on this trip!  I’d be the first to admit that I still have volumes to learn about underwater photography, but even so, my family considers this shot to be one of their favorites!


2015 PAC NW 08 12 2628My son and I had an epic hiking trip to the Pac NW last summer and came home with some lasting memories and killer waterfall photos…this shot of Ryan in front of Wachlella Falls is my pick from that litter….


2015 PAC NW 08 11 2353

On second thought, I kinda like this long exposure perspective of Ponytail Falls too…


2015 PAC NW 08 09 1205cropwm24x36

When I get to visit a location on my “Photographic Bucket List” I rarely come back with a photo I would consider ‘world class.’  After all, when you only have a day or two, what chance do you have to really learn how to best capture the scene PLUS be blessed with weather that makes the image truly something special?  This shot of ‘Thor’s Well’ was a welcome exception to that rule.

2015 Northwest 06 30 451 (1)

This Alaskan harbor seal appears due to the lobbying efforts of my wife.  I would have put it in my top 25 but not top 12…she disagreed.  Over the years I’ve learned to carefully listen when she speaks…



I have a love-hate thingy going with the Oregon/Washington coast.  I love that the coast line has some of the most breathtaking incredible vistas anywhere but I hate that the weather is often, usually, always crappy.  Okay…not always, but it sure seems that way to me.  So it takes some perseverance and luck to get a memorable image.  On the other hand, since you have to go back to the same spot multiple times hoping for good weather, when it finally does clear up, you have scouted the spot to death and know how you want to shoot it!


2015 Northwest 06 20 904

Washington’s Palouse Falls is an incredible sight and I’ve long believed that it would be even more impressive at night with the Milky Way rising over it.  Well, over the years I’ve tried many times to get that shot but the falls are in a deep, dark gorge and it is real challenge to light it up well. I tried long exposures…I tried light painting…  Nothing I did looked ‘right.’  One frustrating and unproductive night when I was breaking down my equipment a guy walked up and asked if I minded if he tried some light painting.  I chuckled to myself and told him to have at it since I’d thought I had already tried everything.  He pulled out the most powerful flashlight I’d ever seen and proceeded to do a masterful job of illuminating the gorge.  I snapped away and ended up with the shot I had always dreamed of.  My thanks to Ariel Rodilla for showing me that I still have a lot more to learn about light painting!


Best Photos of the Year

Perfect Palouse

Every photographer should have the chance to shoot the Palouse region of eastern Washington State at least once before they die.  It truly is a land that time forgot (in a good way) and the 360° views of the sensuous, smooth, and seemingly liquid landscape from Steptoe Butte are stunning.


Best Photos of the Year

Manatee Sunrise

I’ll finish with the most popular photograph I’ve ever published.  When I posted this one on my Facebook page, it seemed to really strike a chord with folks and it went viral.  Oddly enough, this photo bothers me.  When I look at it, all I seem to notice is that the front of this manatee’s nose is out of focus.  Sometimes being a perfectionist means you get hung up on small details and I’m certainly guilty of that.  It was an incredible moment though, when this manatee surfaced right in front of me while I was taking a shot of the sunrise.  If only he had given me the time to make sure the shot was in focus…

It was an incredible year for me professionally and personally.  I explored more of this incredible planet, met lots of wonderful folks, sold some prints, won a contest or two and got a few images published.  Plus, even after all these years, I found that photography continued to challenge and inspire me.   Even better, my wife and I got my first Grandchild (little London Grace)…which helps keep my photography obsession in perspective.

Life is Good.


Also posted in Landscape Photography, Milky Way Photography, Night Photography, Pacific Northwest USA, Underwater Photography, Waterfalls, Wildlife


It is funny how perceptions differ between people.  It is certainly true for photographers as well.  There are some shots that I consider to be my best work that members of my family look at and politely say…”oh, that’s nice.”  On the other hand, there are images I’ve taken that I think are just okay but others really “ahhhh and oooohhhh” about.

The shot below is a perfect example.  I took this image earlier this year but I wasn’t happy with it.  Sure it was nice to get a manatee and a sunrise in the same shot but I didn’t like how part of the manatee wasn’t in focus so I didn’t even bother to process the shot for a few months.  But eventually I did and on a slow day, I named it “Morning Rendezvous” and posted it to my facebook account.  And it went viral.  Over 10,000 ‘likes’, hundreds of shares and comments.  More than anything that I’ve posted before…heck, more than EVERYTHING combined that I’ve ever posted.  People started tracking me down to buy prints and it is now, by far, my best selling print.  It’s been published and used as the banner for multiple websites…heck…the Crystal River Manatee Refuge even used it as the basis of a mural they had painted at their center!

I really don’t intend to brag.  But to be honest, this is a huge break for me professionally, so of course I’m very pleased.  It really is great to create something that strikes such a chord in people.  That is, after all, one of my goals in photography.

But did it have to be this picture?  Clearly most folks aren’t immediately distracted by the poor focus…which is all the perfectionist in me sees.

Funny, huh?!

Morning Rendevous

All I can see are those (out of focus) whiskers….



Also posted in Manatees, Underwater Photography, Wildlife Tagged , |

My Twelve Best of 2014

Every year I publish a “Top 12 Photographs of the Year” article and every year I swear that it seems to be the most difficult blog I have to write.  Well, actually, the writing isn’t that bad…but picking out just twelve shots…man, that’s a challenge.   I struggle for hours trying to whittle down the list and inevitably, I have to ask my wife and son to both come over to the monitor to help me with the last few selections.

Ah don’t want to hear about writer’s anguish…you want to see photos.  So, in no particular order, here are my personal favorites of the year!

#1)  Moonlight on my Shoulder

2014  Roadtrip  June 30 00512_crop

My son Ryan and I hiked out into White Sands National Monument this summer and enjoyed a killer sunset together.  Once it started getting dark, we headed back to the car as the moon rose and the sands turned to an intense shade of blue.  After a few minutes, I glanced behind me and caught Ryan taking this last, pensive glance at the surreal scene.

 #2) “Beaufort Bruisers”

2014 Alaska 091614 03062

A highlight of the year was a ten day photo adventure to the Arctic Circle.  On that trip I watched and photographed these two young polar bears while they had a good natured but rambunctious rumble near the village of Kaktovik.  Gazing at these magnificent apex predators from the nearby deck of a small boat was a rush!

#3)  Gotterdammerung2014 Alaska 091814 04301skew

I got the opportunity to fulfill a childhood wish in 2014 by seeing and photographing the Northern Lights…and it was all I had hoped it might be.  In this shot, I love how the road on the bottom right reflects the green of the Aurora while the sliver of a river to the left mirrors the deep red in the sky above it

#4) Shock and Awe

2014  Roadtrip  June 28 01284_-Recovered crop

I’ve stood on this bridge in Zion National Park with dozens of others photographing the Watchman at sunset more than a few times.  But standing at the same spot at midnight without another soul in sight while gazing up at the glory that is the Milky Way was a whole new and amazing experience.   Sometimes I am truly awed and shocked by the beauty of our universe.

#5) Target Acquired

Hummingbird Photography: A 6 Step Guide with Hummingbird Photo Tips If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you already know that I have an unbridled fascination with Hummingbirds.  This shot displaying the full wing and tail extension of a Ruby-Throated hummer captures some of the dramatic energy that captivates me.   I photographed this little jewel in my home ‘hummer studio’ that I set up every year right outside the window where I write this blog.

#8) Moonbow

2014  Yosemite  April 16 00011_

Before 2014, I didn’t know that you could seen a rainbow at night.  But in February, I stood before Yosemite Falls under a full moon and shook my head in disbelief as I captured this shot.  One of the things I love about photography the most is that it encourages me to learn and see more of the world!

#7)  Leviathan

2014 Georgia Aquarium February 15, 2014 00076 Copyright

One big ticket item on my ‘bucket list’ is to swim with whale sharks.  I haven’t had a chance to make that dream a reality yet, but seeing this whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium was a taste of things to come.

#8) Georgia on my Mind2014  Georgia Waterfalls  May 13 00326__HDR NIK crop

If someone asked a random group of 1,000 photographers to name their favorite waterfall in North America, I’m willing to bet that Minnehaha Falls would probably not be mentioned by any of them.  But I think this secluded cascade in the mountains of northern Georgia is one of the most photogenic waterfalls I’ve seen anywhere.  Even better, since it isn’t well known, you will probably be the only one there to enjoy its beauty.

#9) Heaven’s Arch

Milky Way captured at Bryce Canyon during a new moon.

Milky Way captured at Bryce Canyon during a new moon.

I was able to capture the full arc of the Milky Way at a spot along the Navaho Loop Trail on this moonless, cloudless night.  It almost looked like one end of the Milky Way was shooting stars out of Thor’s Hammer….

#10) Good Morning Sunshine!2014 Beach 03 September 00770

This sunrise at Melborne Beach in Florida was blessed with one of the most magnificent sunbeam halos I’ve ever seen.

#11)  Lighting the Way2014 June Acadia (178)

Bass Harbor Light is one of the East Coast’s most iconic locations for photographers.  And with good reason:  A lighthouse perched on a rocky cliff, reflecting pools, huge multi-colored granite blocks, crashing surf…what more could a photographer ask for?
As much as I love this spot, it took a number of trips over five years before I was lucky enough to catch a sunset that was equal to the setting.

#12) Morning Wind

2014 Alaska 091214 00105

The ancients called it the “Morning Wind” and it has amazed mankind since we first looked toward the heavens.   As I stood on the banks of the Chena River near Fairbanks last fall, this Aurora weaved and swayed in a sensuous dance that simply awed me.


Well there you have it.  2014 was a truly a wonderful year for me.  I was blessed to have the chance to travel and photograph some truly amazing sights and I am excited to see what 2015 will bring.  Thanks for reading my blog and sharing these adventures with me over the past year!


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My Top Twelve from 2013

This is a blog that I do every year, but I have a love/hate relationship with it.  I mean, it is neat to sift thru my ‘old’ shots and relive the experiences, places and events of the past year, but man, it isn’t easy to cull down twenty thousand photos to just a dozen (Actually, I was going to do a top ten list, but just couldn’t cut out two more!)

Well, enough whining.  Here we go. I’ve gotten input from my wife, my friends, my kids and my readers, so here in no particular order is the best I could do in 2013:

#1)  “Rapture”

My Top Twelve from 2013

Who needs words?

This is one of those shots that I haven’t previously posted…and it is, without a doubt, my favorite photograph of 2013.  It captures my son Ryan below Havasu Falls.  His spontaneous pose eloquently expresses the incredible emotional impact evoked by this magical setting.


#2) “From the Depths”

My Top Twelve from 2013 Night diving with Manta Rays on Hawaii's Big Island

Click on the image to see it in full resolution

Hawaii is a photographer’s heaven.  Unique, Exotic, Intoxicating.  Those three words are fully expressed in this shot of a huge Manta Ray swooping up from the blackness of the ocean’s floor inches from my mask (it actually brushed against my camera as it swept past)!  One of the most intense and exciting experiences of my life.  If you ever get a chance to swim with the Mantas, check out these tips to make the most of your trip!

#3) “End of Days”

Sunrise in Smoky Mountains National Park from from the Cataloochee Overlook

Just click your mouse on the photo to see it in full resolution.

If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I’d swear that this photo has been photo-shopped to death.  But sometimes nature can pull out all the stops and create a panorama so intense that even photoshop can’t match it…no matter how far you move the saturation slider to the right!

As I drove up the mountain road toward Newfound Pass in the Smokies last fall, I glanced back over my shoulder into the pre-dawn darkness hoping for a decent sunrise.  As the sky lightened and I began to comprehend the magnitude of the impending daybreak, I started driving faster and faster, ticked-off at myself for not getting out of bed 20 minutes earlier.   But my minivan nailed the curves like a Ferrari that morning and delivered me to the Oconoluftee Valley Overlook before the color peaked.  I spent twenty minutes photographing this apocalyptic scene in silence.  One of those sights I will take to the grave.

#4) “Harriet’s Breakfast”

My Top Twelve from 2013 Hummingbird with ant

If you want to see every last feather on this little beauty, just click on the photo

I had a blast last summer learning how to photograph these amazing little critters (see my full how-to blog post).  “Harriet” was a female Ruby-Throated  Hummingbird who ‘adopted’ my feeder… I really wanted to get some shots of the prettier males but Harriet did an admirable job scaring away every other hummer that got within ten feet of my camera set-up.  Just the same, she provided me with some wonderful shots…and this one with an ant that she pulled out of my feeder was among the best of the bunch.

#5) “In the Beginning…”

Incredible Sunset at Delicate Arch

One of my favorite landscape shots of all time…

If you are a landscape photographer, then you have already seen images of Delicate Arch…probably hundreds of them.  After all, this incredibly graceful 65 foot tall sculpture of entrada sandstone is a photographic icon.  Majestic, colossal, dramatic, colorful…I mean, what more could any photographer ask for? My son and I braved a July monsoon that sent most of the tourists scrambling back to their buses (some of them actually started sprinting after a couple thunderbursts). I’m glad we stuck it out because this photo was the payoff….possibly a once in a lifetime shot for me.  It was one of those sunsets that you rarely see anywhere… and to experience it the night I hiked to Delicate Arch was like winning the Powerball (but Powerball would have been a real close second!)

#6) “Paradise Found “

Na Pali Coast from the air Kauai Kauaʻi

Anyone can get this shot…assuming you are willing to hang out the open door of a helicopter hovering at 500 feet over the Pacific:)

This is another shot that I’m posting for the first time.  Being the frugal man that I am, it was truly painful to fork over the big bucks and charter a chopper for a private photo flight over the rugged Nā Pali coast on Kauai…but, you know,  I’ve never regretted it for a moment.

Just take a couple moments and take in the vista.  It is truly magical.  Exotic.  Remote. Lush.

Wow…I gotta go back!


#7) “The Light at the end of the Tunnel…”

Lower Antelope Canyon

You can see every grain of sand in this shot at full resolution…just click on it.

Images like this one are why I am drawn back to Antelope Canyon again and again. Now, I ‘m not one of those ‘New Age’ folks that talk about their ‘auras’ and ‘vortex energy’ but I’ll admit that there is something surreal that settles in your psyche when you move within these sandstone walls. This image is a 5 frame HDR from Lower Antelope Canyon, which is less popular (and less crowded) than the Upper Canyon.  Although the Upper Canyon is more dramatic and has the famous sunbeams, I prefer the Lower Canyon since you can wonder around without a group if you buy the photographer’s pass (worth every penny!)

#8) “East of Moab”

SUnflowers at Lake Jessup Florida

Scenes like this might be why Ponce de León named my state ‘La Florida”…

Moab, Yosemite,…Lake Jesup?!
Okay, okay…most folks don’t think of central Florida as a prime landscape photography location…and usually they would be correct.  But once a year millions of sunflowers bloom on the flats bordering Lake Jesup and for a couple weeks, Florida joins those illustrious locations as a top-tier shutterbug site.

I knew the sunflowers would be in bloom when I hiked out to the flats last fall, but this incredible sunrise was a total surprise.  It was one of those dawns that folks were talking about around the water cooler the rest of the day.  I was darned lucky to be there!

#9) “Spinning off into Infinity”

Milky way over observation tower at Clingman's Dome Smoky Mountain National Park

If you haven’t tried photographing the Milky Way yet, you’re missing a real treat!

Here’s is a shot that I visualized a couple years ago but it took me a dozen attempts or more to pull it off.
This past autumn, I timed a 4 day trip to the Smokies to coincide with the new moon in the hope of capturing the Milky Way.  But every night, Clingman’s was socked in by clouds.
On my last evening, the weather finally broke and after sunset, I hiked to the summit and waited an hour or so for the sky to darken.
As often as I try to pre-visualize and plan shots, they rarely meet my expections.  This shot however, was an exception.

See my how-to blog for hints on how you can take shots of the Milky Way.  It’s fun, it’s easy and you have got to give it a try!

#10) “Sonoran Sunrise”

Sunrise in the Sonoran desert with Saguaro cactus

A full resolution view of this landscape is available: just click on it!

I was hiking in the Sonoran desert when I (figuratively) stumbled upon this Saguaro cactus as it performed sunrise sentinel duty.  I know that those of you from the southwest might consider this shot a bit trite, but as a Floridian, I had never even seen a Saguaro before (except in old ‘Roadrunner’ cartoons!)

#11) “Little Surprises”

Little Surprises: Little Wailua Falls...Maui's Subtle Hidden Treasure

The islands of Hawaii are blessed with an array of spectacular, towering, tropical waterfalls.  Oddly enough, this little cascade, shadowed by a huge and famous waterfall and hidden under an ugly concrete bridge was my favorite waterfall photo from a recent trip to Maui.

#12) “Big Gulp”

Mesa Arch Sunrise

Now…THAT’S a view!

Mesa Arch is a location that should be on every photographer’s ‘bucket list.’  I shot this with a 15mm Fisheye and I thought the raw shot (not corrected for the lens/perspective distortion) emphasized the gaping opening beneath the arch and provided a fresh look for this iconic location…certainly a bit different from the “traditional” shot.

There you have it…a full year condensed down to 12 images.  I really can’t begin to calculate how many hundreds of hours I spent or how many thousands of miles I traveled in hiking boots, airplanes and vans to capture these shots…but looking at them now, it was a small price to pay.

Our little blue and green planet is an incredible gem…filled with the most incredible beauty. Get out there and enjoy it!

Jeff Stamer

January 24, 2014



My Top Ten Photos for 2012

I’ve always enjoyed looking at photographer’s ‘top ten’ shots of the previous year.  What I never truly appreciated was just how difficult it is to cull down a year’s worth of labor into only ten moments…it was painful!  I had to bring my wife in to help me make the final decisions and while we did get the list down to ten, we gave up trying to rank them.  So, here is my/our first effort (in random order): Hope you enjoy!


This shot is the namesake of my website and one of my first published pieces.  I had preplanned to be in Yosemite during the short window when the ‘Firefall’ phenomenon occurs in February, but I was just plain lucky that the weather also cooperated.  The fading sunlight backlighting this ephemeral little waterfall off the side of El Capitan really makes it look like it is ablaze!  It is one of those things you just have to see to believe…you stand there in wonder forgetting to hit your shutter. Put it this way, landscape photographers (as a rule) aren’t honestly the most outgoing and spontaneous of people, but on this evening, when the firefall faded away, the dozen or so photographers capturing this scene actually broke out into applause.  An incredible evening…one that you don’t forget.



 Perfect Reflection

Okay, well we didn’t rank the shots, but this might really be my favorite:)  I can’t tell you how many shots I’ve taken of Yosemite, but this one speaks to me in a way that is unique.  El Cap reflected in the perfect morning stillness of the Merced River.



I love this shot of the Smokies…but it isn’t dramatic and its subtlety might be lost on some.    To me though, these ‘godray’s filtering down on the misty ridges of the Smokies truly capture the essence of this magical place.


Sunflower Island

If I had seen this shot a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed that the location was less than ten miles from my home!  One of the things I most appreciate about photography is that it forces you to look a the world differently and more intently.  Sometimes, it helps you ‘see’ things for the first time, even if they have been right in front of you for years.



The Fire Within

It’s a mantra to me that great shots are the result of planning and preparation.  This one was an exception to my own rule.  My wife and I stopped by Old Sheldon Church on the way to Charleston after a suggestion by a new friend.  We just happened to get there in the mid-afternoon when the sun was barely high enough to stream thru the ruins but not so low that the light was blocked by the massive live oaks.



Morning Breath

I was surprised that only two wildlife shots made in into my top ten this year but this one certainly catches your eye!  The elephant seals at the rookery just north of San Simeon are impressive (and LOUD).





“Take me to your Leader”

Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies is an unparralled location for sunrises and sunsets….sometimes.  I made the long drive up to the ‘dome’ four times during my trip there last fall, and with a single exception, the peak was fogged in every single darned time I got there.  It was insanely frustrating.   Oddly enough, this shot of my wife Anita turned out to be one of my favorite shots of the year:  because of that fog.  Sometimes, you just have to put aside your ‘pre-visualized’ shots and go with the moment.


Evening in the Valley

As you crouch in this little valley among the Calla Lillies in Big Sur, would you really be all that surprised to see a Hobbit somewhere in the viewfinder?


 Sunburst at Newfound Gap

Possibly the most impressive sunrise I’ve ever witnessed in the Smokies.  This sunrise just exploded out of an overcast sky for a couple of brief moments.  I was ecstatic that I hadn’t packed it in and headed back down the mountain like most of the photographers who had gotten frustrated by the cloud cover. Just Glorious.




When my typically non-expressive teenaged son looks at a shot and says: ‘That is incredibly precious’, I know I’ve got something good!   This little fella showed up at my house on Thanksgiving looking for goodies.

So there you have it…my best of 2012.  Wow…it is wild to take an entire year and reduce it to just ten images…kinda puts things in perspective.  Anyway, enough retrospection: On to 2013!






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